Worf, the first Klingon member of Starfleet, made his debut in the first episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Though he was only supposed to be a minor character, according to “The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years,” he became one of the most popular characters on the show.
Worf went on to be a major part of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” With his appearances in both shows and the “Star Trek” movies, Worf was in more “Star Trek” than any other single character, Memory Alpha reported.
However, the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, never liked the idea of having a Klingon on the bridge of the Enterprise. If the decision had been solely his, Worf might not have made it on the show, let alone the bridge.
Roddenberry Didn’t Want Klingons on TNG
Every new television show has a document called the “show Bible.” The Bible tells the writers what the show is about, what kind of topics the showrunners want to cover in episodes, what storyline elements to avoid, and how the world and its technologies work.
The original show Bible for TNG was over 50 pages because the world-building was so extensive and Roddenberry had very specific ideas about the main characters. Worf was not included as one of the characters in the original show Bible. In fact, the Bible explicitly stated that the writers should not submit scripts that included storylines about the Klingons’ war with the Federation.
David Gerrold, one of the writers for TNG’s first season, told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission” that he suggested the Enterprise should have a Klingon First Officer. However, Gerrold said Roddenberry “was adamantly against this.” So, he abandoned the idea.
Dorothy Fontana, another writer for the show, confirmed Roddenberry’s hesitancy to include Klingons in TNG. She told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission” that Roddenberry saw Klingons as one-dimensional villains like they were in TOS. He couldn’t see them as nuanced members of a Starfleet crew.
Eventually, Roddenberry relented. According to “The Next Generation Companion,” he decided that he could differentiate the TNG Klingons from the TOS Klingons by making it clear that the Klingons and the Federation were no longer at war. The easiest way to accomplish that would be to include a Klingon as a member of the bridge crew. So, Worf was added.
How Worf Became a Main Character
“Star Trek” showrunner Rick Berman told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission” that Michael Dorn, the actor who played Worf, wasn’t even contracted for all of the first-season episodes. He was supposed to be a recurring but minor character who showed up from time to time.
However, Denise Crosby’s exit from the show late in the first season changed the course of the character. Crosby played Tasha Yar, the Enterprise’s security chief. When Crosby decided to leave the show because she was dissatisfied with her character’s portrayal, the Enterprise needed a new chief of security.
Dorn explained how Worf got the position in an interview with TrekMovie.
“It was quite quick. But nobody talked to me about it at all. There wasn’t a mention of anything, only when I got the script when she got killed. They said, ‘Okay, you’re going to be acting security chief.’ That’s the first time I knew… But I think that they had a meeting and they said, ‘God, what are we going to do? She’s chief of security. It’s a big role. We need somebody that’s kind of a big macho, take-charge kind of guy. Who do you think?’ And I think they kind of went, ‘Wait a minute, what about Worf? Oh my God.’ And once they decided to do that, I think everybody was pleasantly surprised what a good fit it was. But if it was planned, I didn’t know about it until I got the script.”
Once Worf was upgraded to a major character on the show, many of the writers realized that they loved writing for his character. One of the writers told the authors of “The Fifty-Year Mission” that Worf was the character they could use to represent all the old, bigoted ideas that humans had outgrown because he was an alien. Worf having prejudices was a great contrast to Roddenberry’s evolved idea of humanity.
The writers also love Worf because he brought some conflict to the show. Roddenberry was adamant that the crew of the Enterprise was too evolved for regular interpersonal drama. Many of the writers struggled with this limitation. However, when Worf became a major player, they could add drama because of his Klingon temperament.
Though Roddenberry was convinced that including Klingons in TNG would be a mistake, Worf’s inclusion ended up being crucial to both TNG and DS9. Without Worf, the Klingons might have faded away after TOS and may never have become one of the most recognizable and beloved “Star Trek” aliens.
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